"NHS and Organisational Mindfulness" by Mark Leonard

Dr Adele Krusche and Chris Jack, PhD candidate at Queen Mary's, have just finished the report on the quantitative study of the impact of the Mindfulness-based Organisational Education (MBOE) programme we delivered for staff at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital (ROH) last year. We've used a measure from Self Determination Theory, Basic Psychological Needs at Work Scale (which is comprised of competence, autonomy and relatedness) to assess its organisational impact.


Many difficult discussions need to be had in the NHS and more broadly in wider society about health care. The objective of the course we've trialled with ROH is to educate staff about importance of human emotions in the workplace and how to work with them.

The prevailing way of thinking about the human mind in our society today is based on a psychological model of individual experience. Contemporary mindfulness reflects this. Mindfulness has become the hot new self-help tool to manage the stressful fallout of modern working life and maybe even to be more successful at work and enrich our private lives. Does mindfulness have to be a value-free intervention?


The MBOE approach is different because it recognises that who we are is socially constructed. Awareness may arise through embodied cognition, which includes the brain and nervous system, but we create a sense of who we are by our social experience. In a social context, mindfulness enables us to understand how we create a sense of self in relationships with others. Mindfulness becomes a tool to understand how to act in ways that are guided by an experiential compass of feelings. It becomes natural to listen because it feels comfortable. It becomes natural to share because the joy it brings feels pleasurable. It becomes natural to be compassionate because it is a reward in itself.


Ever increasing pressure to meet targets with limited funding creates experiential conditions of threat. The need to monitor and evaluate performance undermines a sense of autonomy. Frustration builds when voices go unheard.

We evolved as social beings, not cogs in a machine. The challenge is to create the social and organisational conditions in which the positive experience of sharing and cooperating with others is encouraged. It is to create a culture that recognises that these behaviours are the building blocks of a healthy mind, a productive organisation and healthy society. We need to trust that these motives will be expressed naturally when given the chance.


The external conditions experienced in an organisation may be challenging but group mindfulness and emotional education taught in the MBOE programme improves staff competence, autonomy and relatedness (assessed with Basic Psychological Needs at Work Scale). These measurable benefits come with a greater sense of the intrinsic rewards of making a positive contribution and collectively create a productive, sustainable and engaged workplace culture.


A panel of leaders from ROH will talking about the work we have done together with me at the Mind and Matter Conference in April. We're all very pleased that Dr Conny Blunt, who acted as internal champion for the programme, has been recognised with the ROH Chair's Award.


I'd be happy to share a copy of the report with you if you are interested in understanding more about this approach. Please contact me via mindfulnessconnected.com.


Mark Leonard helped to establish the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, where he trained to teach Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), which he adapted to a workplace training before working with Mindfulness4Change.

His chapter, Making Mindfulness Meaningful and Accessible, is included in Mindfulness in the Workplace: An Evidence-based Approach to Improving Wellbeing and Maximising Performance, edited by Margaret Chapman-Clarke, Kogan Page, May 2016.

There is a free online “Make a Change” mindfulness course available on www.mindfulness4change.com

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